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U. of C. Obama Library Pitch Includes 20 Acres of Parkland

By Sam Cholke | January 7, 2015 9:54am
 The University of Chicago identified specific sites in Washington and Jackson parks Wednesday for the Obama library.
Obama Library Maps
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HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago has released maps showing it is proposing using far vaster swaths of parkland than many suspected for the Barack Obama Presidential Library.

Maps released Wednesday morning show broad sections of Washington Park and Jackson Park as possible library sites.

In Washington Park, maps show the library consuming all of the park’s arboretum from 51st Street to Garfield Boulevard between Martin Luther King Drive and Ellsworth Drive.

In Jackson Park, the library campus would extend from 60th Street to 63rd Street between Stony Island and Cornell avenues. The area includes several baseball diamonds, a recently redone playground and the park's football field.

The university estimates 22 acres of Washington Park would be used and 21 acres of Jackson Park, with less than 10 acres devoted to buildings at each site.

In a statement Wednesday, the university said the Obama Foundation, tasked with recommending a site to the president, was given 20 options by the university and chose parkland over other sites because it would be accessible and not displace residents.

An anonymous source at the Obama Foundation criticized both locations in the Sun-Times and Tribune because neither the university nor the city controls the property at either site.

The university also is planning to use a portion of the land it owns in the Washington Park neighborhood if the Obamas choose that location. The land includes property owned by university, city and CTA between King Drive and Prairie Avenue, 54th Street and Garfield Boulevard.

The site also includes private property, including several homes in the 5400 block of South Calumet Avenue and Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, 5416 S. Calumet Ave.

The Jackson Park proposal is only park and.

The Obama Foundation is supposed to make a recommendation to the Obamas by early this year, but did not make any specific sites public until Wednesday.

“Locating the Barack Obama Presidential Library on Chicago’s South Side offers a rare chance to reinvigorate the economy of nearby communities and make improvements for the area’s infrastructure and parks,” said Susan Sher, senior adviser to U. of C. President Robert J. Zimmer. “We look forward to hearing further community input regarding the proposed sites in Washington Park or Woodlawn, where the presidential library will create a global destination for learning and engagement.”

A public meeting is scheduled for next week on each of the sites. A meeting to discuss Jackson Park will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave. Washington Park will be discussed at noon on Jan. 14 at the park’s field house, 5531 S. Martin Luther King Drive.

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